Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Praise for Trudy Harrison's maiden speech

Trudy Harrison made her first speech in the House of Commons yesterday, having been elected earlier this year as the first Conservative MP to represent Copeland since the seat was created eight decades ago, and now facing a battle to be re-elected thanks to the general election.

The full text of her speech is available at the Hansard site here, and it can be seen on the "ParliamentliveTV" site here (this link shows the whole of the business for Tuesday 26th May, you can find Trudy's speech by using the slider on the right to go to 13.14.13).

Today's parliamentary review in The Times by Patrick Kidd (which you can read in full here) was mostly about Trudy's maiden speech and I quote below an extract from it.

Referring to the fact that Trudy was about to face re-election and had been looking to get a timeslot to deliver her first speech, before the dissolution, Patrick Kidd wrote:

"Yesterday she delivered. After two months of ducking, she turned out to be a swan. And if this was her first and final performance, as swansongs traditionally are, it was a fine way to go.

Most days I mock politicians. Most days they deserve it. Many of them are vain, pompous, verbose and tribal or, worse, bland and sycophantic. Or are those just the ones who catch our eye? There are lots of noble public servants — in all parties — who work hard, not seeking the limelight. Many good MPs, a lot of them Labour, will not return after next week through no fault of their own. They deserve thanks; they will get raspberries.

Ms Harrison seems to realise the fleeting nature of her trade. She devoted the first 400 words of her speech to her predecessor, Labour’s Jamie Reed. He had served Copeland, she said, “with great talent and dedication, a proud supporter of our local industry”. She even gave him the credit for her taking an interest in politics. Some years ago she had attended a Westminster debate that he had called about her local struggling school. “I saw the positive impact that MPs could have and the powerful influence of their support, even in remote areas which I had previously felt would never be anyone’s political priority.”

She did not need to praise a politician from a rival party but she was right to. And on she went: talking, as MPs often do in their maiden speech, about the delights of her constituency with charm and eloquence. She spoke of her three most famous constituents — Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle — and the views of Scafell that she had from her childhood bedroom window.

She also said how much it meant to her four teenage daughters that she was the woman who tipped the balance between the number of women MPs there has ever been — 456 — and the number of men there are now in the Commons.

Most importantly, though, she did not use her speech as a party political broadcast. Aside from one “northern powerhouse” there were no clichĂ©s. No “a country that works for everyone”, nor a peep of Mrs May’s new buzzword, stable, which makes me think of something you shut after the horse has bolted.

It was sincere, passionate and personal. And if it included a groaner of a pun — “land of Copeland glory” — she at least had the awareness to grimace.

If this proves to have been her only song in the Commons, it just showed up how many MPs waste their more frequently exercised voices. As Coleridge wrote: “Swans sing before they die — ‘twere no bad thing/ Should certain persons die before they sing.”

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